Electronic dance music has been a huge underground scene for a number of years now, and we've seen flashes of it on the top 40 charts, but now it's beginning to break through in a big way and David Guetta is leading the charge by adding star vocalists to what was once purely electronic music.
Guetta was one of the first to join this trend on his 2009 album One Love, which included the hit singles "When Love Takes Over" (featuring Kelly Rowland), "Gettin' Over You" (featuring Chris Willis, Fergie and LMFAO) and "Sexy Bitch" (featuring Akon). The last song hit the top five in the United States and all three reached #1 in the UK. The album also featured another internationally known single called "Memories" (featuring Kid Cudi), which became a top five hit in many countries.
Guetta has sold over three million albums and 15 million singles worldwide and is currently one of the most sought-after producers in the music business.
As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.
"Turn Me On" is a very basic song form with one twist in the prechorus. The form looks like this:
Intro, Verse, B Section, Interlude, Chorus, Verse, B Section, Interlude, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus
Every section is 8 bars long except for the Interlude (the "Oh" part before the chorus) which is only 4 bars, and that's the only thing that changes the song up a bit form-wise.
There aren't a lot of elements or layers to the song by the very nature of electronic dance music. Instead of a drum kit and bass, the rhythm element is made up of a huge kick drum and bass sound, which take up so much sonic space that's it's difficult to fit additional foundation instruments in.
What's very interesting in "Turn Me On" is the way the claps and high hat are used to develop the song. Usually a song is developed by adding additional arrangement elements or additional instrument or vocal layers. On this song percussion is used to accomplish the same thing. Here's how it's done:
In the first verse you only hear the kick and bass sounds, but doubled claps in stereo are used to develop the B section. In verse 2 the claps continue, but a hat sound is used to develop the 2nd B section.
Here's what the arrangement elements look like:
* The Foundation: Bass and kick sounds
* The Rhythm: Arpeggiated synth line, claps from the first B section onward, hat sound in the second B section.
* The Pad: A synth in the bridge
* The Lead: The vocal
* The Fills: Background vocal line at the end of the chorus, arpeggiated synth in the choruses, vocal answers in the first half of the bridge
Another function of electronic dance music is the fact that distortion is normally viewed as something to be embraced and not rejected. There's plenty of it here that's a big part of various sounds, but even the vocal (which you'd expect to be clean) has a lot of distortion.
There's a slight ambience sound on most of the syths, but most of the layering on both the syths and vocals comes from timed delays that are long enough to hear and fill in the holes between phrases.
A couple of cool things are the way the the vocal is manipulated in the Interludes by panning from left to right channel and back again, all the while modulating it gradually into full distortion at the end. I also loved the use of the stereo claps that enter in the first B section.
I think a big reason why this song is a hit is its excellent dynamics. The song goes from a whisper to a roar and back again several times during the song, which keeps your attention on a rather uninteresting song form.
Want an example? Listen how the song starts off quiet, gets a bit bigger during the first verse, a bit more during the B section, then comes down to just a vocal (over a gurgling synth) during the interlude, then smacks you over the head on the chorus. The same happens during the second verse, B, interlude and chorus, then again from the bridge to the last chorus. The tension and release is why it remains interesting.
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